It is often assumed that MAPK pathways drive proliferation of normal uroepithelial (UEC) and urothelial carcinoma (TCC) cells. To check this assumption, activities and inducibilities of promoters containing serum-response elements (SRE) or AP-1 binding sites were investigated in cultured UEC and seven TCC lines. Reporter plasmids dependent on SRE or AP-1 sites were highly active in UEC, but significantly less so in TCC lines. Reporter activity in TCC lines could be induced by constitutively active MEKK4 or TPA. Accordingly, phosphorylation of the MAPK pathway components MEK, ERK, and ELK1 was most pronounced in UEC and lower in TCC lines. MAPK-dependent promoter activities and bromodeoxyuridine incorporation decreased in UEC upon withdrawal of growth factors, but less so in TCC lines, in which serum diminution increased apoptosis. Likewise, E2F-dependent promoters responded to growth factors in UEC, but were more serum-independent in the TCC lines, which lack either RB1 or p16(INK4A). MEK inhibitors inhibited BrdU incorporation in UEC more strongly than in TCC lines. Thus, proliferation of normal uroepithelial cells is indeed associated with activation of MAPK pathways. However, autonomous proliferation of TCC lines--unexpectedly--appears much less dependent on MAPK activation and may rather be promoted by defects in cell cycle regulation.